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Pac-12 Football Notebook: Nick Rolovich's Uncertain Status, Utah's Rise

And Arizona gets blown out in the one game it figured to have a chance to win

Let's get right into the seven questions that arose after this weekend's Pac-12 football action:

Question No. 1: Will Nick Rolovich be Washington State’s head coach for next Saturday’s game against BYU?

The surprising Cougars, who were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North, have won three games in row, tying Utah for the longest current winning streak in the conference. Head coach Nick Rolovich was showered with Gatorade by his players after Saturday's win over Stanford.

But whether Rolovich will still be WSU's head coach on Monday remains uncertain.

The state of Washington set a deadline of Monday for all public employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Rolovich has not been vaccinated but applied for a religious exemption. If his exemption is denied, he cannot continue to work as the highest-paid state employee at more than $3 million per year.

He awaits an email that will tell him whether his exemption has been accepted or denied. The people who determine whether an exemption is accepted do not know the identity of the applicant, so Rolovich’s position as an FBS head coach will not be a factor.

“I’m going to come to work tomorrow, get ready for BYU, gonna grade this film,” Rolovich said after Saturday’s win over Stanford, according to the Spokane Spokesman Review. “I don’t think this is in my hands. I’ve been settled for a long time on (my decision). I believe it’s going to work out the right way.”

It's possible that multiple coaches on the Washington State staff could be affected by the state's vaccine mandate.

WSU athletic director Pat Chun reportedly will hold a mandatory meeting with players at 5:30 p.m. Monday to discuss Nick Rolovich’s future with the school. 

Here's Rolovich's postgame press conference Saturday:


Question No. 2: Is Utah suddenly the favorite to win the Pac-12 title?

When Utah lost to San Diego State in overtime to drop to 1-2, the Utes were dismissed as Pac-12 contenders.

But that was before Cam Rising became the Utes starting quarterback. Plus, it turns out that San Diego State is pretty good, holding a 6-0 record and a No. 22 ranking in the AP poll released Sunday.

Now, after Saturday’s win over Arizona State, the Utes are the only Pac-12 team without a conference loss, and they are 3-0 since Rising replaced Charlie Brewer as their starting quarterback.

Saturday’s win put Utah in control of the Pac-12 South, while Oregon, the presumed favorite in the North, has looked vulnerable lately, barely holding off Cal on Friday after losing to Stanford in its previous game.

The Utes and Rising seem to be improving with each game, and, at the moment, Utah looks like the Pac-12 team most likely to earn a Rose Bowl berth.

However, the Utes travel to Corvallis next week to face Oregon State (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) in a game that could change the Pac-12 picture again.


Question No. 3: What got into Cam Rising in the second half of the Arizona State-Utah game?

Utah quarterback Cam Rising was 8-for-18 for 107 yards, no touchdown and two interceptions in the first half, which ended with ASU holding a 21-7 lead.

In the second half, he went 13-for-15 for 140 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions as the Utes outscored ASU 28-0 after halftime.

To state the obvious, rallying a team in the second half after a dismal first half is a key trait of a quality quarterback.


Question No. 4: Will next week’s UCLA-Oregon game be the Pac-12 game of the year?

It’s certainly possible, and ESPN Game Day will be in Pasadena for the occasion.

This will be the third time that UCLA coach Chip Kelly will face the team he turned into a national powerhouse a decade ago. He lost the first two, but both those games were in Eugene, Oregon, when the Bruins were rebuilding. This one will be in Pasadena when the Bruins look like title contenders.

UCLA (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) is coming off a 24-17 road win over Washington in which Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was outstanding, going 21-for-26 for 186 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions and rushing for 87 more yards. Meanwhile, the Ducks (5-1, 2-1) are stumbling along after barely surviving Friday’s home game against Cal.

The unranked Bruins began the week as 3-point underdogs against No. 9 Oregon, but by Monday UCLA was a 2-point favorite..


Question No. 5: What is the most significant streak in the conference?

.Three choices:

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---Oregon’s 16-game home winning streak is the longest active streak in the country, although the Ducks let Cal get to their 2-yard line in the closing seconds before finishing a 24-17 win.

When the season began, the Ducks’ final three home games against Colorado, Washington State and Oregon State figured to be routine wins.

Now? Not so much.

---Arizona’s 18-game losing streak is the longest in the country, and things look bleak after losing 34-0 to Colorado, which figured to be the Wildcats’ best chance for a win this season.

And with Arizona quarterback Jordan McCloud out for the rest of the season, the hope for a win this season is evaporating.

The Wildcats’ last win came on Oct. 5, 2019, at Colorado, but this time Arizona was shut out for the first time since a 49-0 loss to Oregon on Sept. 22, 2012. Oregon was ranked No. 3 in the matchup nine years ago; Colorado got its first win over an FBS team by beating Arizona.

A home game against Cal on Nov. 6 may be Arizona’s best chance to end its losing streak.

Arizona can get comfort in the fact that it is a long way from the record for the longest losing streak by a Division I school. Northwestern lost 34 in a row from 1976 to 1981.

---Washington has had 11 straight winning seasons, but at 2-4 following Saturday's loss to UCLA, the Huskies' streak is in danger.

The Huskies play at Arizona on Friday night, but then have games against Stanford on the road, Oregon at home and Arizona State at home. 

Husky Maven suggests coach Jimmy Lake's job might be in jeopardy, and even if he stays, the coaching staff may get a shake-up.


Question No. 6: Has the jumbled conference race hurt Pac-12’s national image?

Five Pac-12 teams were ranked in the preseason Associated Press top-25. But Oregon is the only Pac-12 team ranked in the top 25 this week, and the Ducks, who dropped one spot to No. 10 despite winning, have not looked like a top-10 team lately.

There is no clear-cut favorite in either Pac-12 division, and the lack of a dominant team continues to hurt the conference’s reputation.


Question No. 7: Is Cal worse than expected or just unlucky?

Picked to finish third in the Pac-12 North, Cal has yet to win a game against an FBS opponent this season. But the Bears are not far from being 5-1. They lost to Nevada by five points after taking an early 14-0 lead. They lost to TCU by two because of some special teams blunders. They lost to Washington in overtime when Cal running back Damien Moore fumbled at the 1-yard line of the extra period. They lost to Oregon 24-17 despite having a first-and-goal at the Oregon 3-yard line with 16 seconds left and one timeout in their pocket.

The Pac-12 top five teams:

1. Oregon (5-1) – I'm not sure the Ducks are the best team, but I rank based on  resume, not assumptions.

2Utah (4-2) -- Three straight wins and a victory over Arizona State push the Utes up.

3. Arizona State (5-2) – The Sun Devils are ahead of UCLA because they beat the Bruins.

4. UCLA (4-2) – The Bruins' game against Oregon next week will tell us a lot about both teams.

5. Oregon State (4-2) – Washington State beat the Beavers so maybe they should own this spot, but the Cougars have lost three games.

Pac-12 Player of the Year Standings

1. Cameron Rising, Utah quarterback -- This may be a knee-jerk reaction since we didn't have Rising in our top five last week, but the first-place Utes are 3-0 with him as their starting quarterback, and he he has been outstanding the past two games.

2. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA quarterback – His excellent game against Washington makes him a strong contender.

3. B.J. Baylor, Oregon State running back – He leads the Pac-12 and is 10th in the nation in rushing (113.0 yards per game), and the Beavers are still tied for the top spot in the Pac-12 North.

4. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State quarterback -- His struggles in the second half against Utah dropped him from the top spot.

5 (tie). Drake London, USC wide receiver -- He is second in the nation in both receptions (64) and receiving yards per game (138.7).

5. (tie) Travis Dye, Oregon running back -- The Ducks will ride Dye with CJ Verdell out for the season, and he had 145 rushing yards and 73 receiving yards against Cal. He is third in the Pac-12 in rushing (87.8 yards per game) and averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He also leads the Ducks in receptions with 15.


Cover photo of Nick Rolovich is by James Snook, USA TODAY Sports.


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